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Community and Culture Form the Focus of Long Reach 50th Anniversary

On Friday, Oct. 15, Long Reach Village celebrated 50 years in Columbia, Maryland.

At least 100 people gathered in the parking lot of the Long Reach Village Center for the first of two days celebrating the longevity of the largest, and one of the oldest, villages in Columbia.

Presented by the Columbia Festival of the Arts in partnership with Howard County Government, with support from the Columbia Association, the event highlighted what the historic village is known for—its arts, culture and diversity.

“Columbia is a very cultural city,” says Keith Graham, owner of K.W. Graham Hats and a five-year resident of Owen Brown, neighboring Long Reach to the southwest.

Graham says despite living in New Jersey and Los Angeles most of his life, he touts the Howard County city as the best place to live and raise a family because of its amenities and community support. The diversity in the area also made it easier to open up a business, he says.

There’s a market for whatever anyone might want to sell, he says, and they don’t even have to leave the city.

The celebration kicked off on Friday with entertainment that was both artistically and culturally diverse.

Keith Graham Long Reach 50th
Keith Graham, owner of K.W. Graham Hats, holds up a commemorative T-shirt at the 50th anniversary celebration of Long Reach Village in Columbia, Maryland.

Pittsburgh-based Squonk wowed crowds with a giant pair of rotating shades and two mechanical hands manually operated by Squonk’s team—and later some audience volunteers. At one point, two guitarists detached the thumbs for a life-size thumb war.

International foursome LADAMA showcased their multicultural singing from Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela and the United States, and the crowd was treated to salsa lessons by the Baltimore Salsa Dance Company.

Longtime contributors to the Long Reach arts community and beyond had artist tents, including mixed media artist Michelle Davis Petelinz, from Raleigh, North Carolina, who has been coming to Columbia to share her art for the past eight years, and Towson stone sculptor Alan Rhody.

Rhody was teaching a young girl how to make a necklace from stone at his tent on Friday.

Squonk thumb wars Long Reach 50th
Pittsburgh-based Squonk puts on a rock opera including two guitarists battling with detachable giant thumbs at the Long Reach 50th anniversary celebration.

The process, he says, is to take a stone, shape it, drill a hole in it and smooth it down with sandpaper and wax. He typically teaches children how to do projects like these at his local Jewish Community Center.

He says it can be very rewarding to work on a hands-on project with them that will take a couple of weeks because at first they’re not sure about it, but once they get going, they become excited, asking, “Mr. Alan, can I use the drill again?”

More art and live music were some of the many suggestions written down by community members at the celebration in response to the question, “What’s your big idea for Long Reach in five years?”

Other responses were focused on practical, everyday solutions that could better the community, such as adding a new supermarket and play area.

Mae Beale Long Reach 50th
Mae A. Beale, a longtime volunteer with Columbia Festival of the Arts, stands in front of a community Q&A at the Long Reach 50th anniversary celebration.

That focus on community betterment was exemplified in Mae A. Beale, a 30-year volunteer for the Columbia Festival of the Arts.

“I too am celebrating 50 years of living in Columbia,” Beale says.

She says she came out to support Long Reach because she learned from her grandmother, who will be 104 this year, that she should always do her part to make her county better.

Her grandmother would always say that every day she wakes up with a purpose, Beale says, adding, “I believe I’m a chip off the old block.”

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